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US ‘to deploy drones to launch air strikes against al-Qaeda in Mali’

S ource: Telegraph

It would be the first known use of the unmanned aircraft in north Africa, where the US is considering how to halt the advance of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

This armed movement, once considered one of the weaker branches of al-Qaeda, seized de facto control over 300,000 square miles of northern Mali earlier this year. The territory dominated by AQIM includes airports, military bases, training facilities and arms dumps.

White House officials have met their counterparts from the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department to discuss how to confront AQIM. The talks began several months ago, but discussions of American drone strikes have become more urgent since AQIM was linked to last month’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

General Carter Ham, head of the US Africa Command, told the Washington Post there were “no plans for US direct military intervention” but said that America would support counter-terrorism operations by other countries in the region.

Tanya Bradsher, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the White House holds meetings on a variety of subjects, including a number of counter-terrorism issues. The President has been clear about his goal to destroy al-Qaeda’s network and we work toward that goal every day.”

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